Revere Beach

Travel Guide: History of Revere Beach, Suffolk Downs, and Wonderland

I must correct a mistake before I write about the Greater Revere Beach area,  I made in an earlier article. The Boston City Council was the Suffolk County Commission. The two entities were the same. There was not a Suffolk County Commission that granted the Boston City Council Executive authority, because the Boston City Council was the Suffolk County Commission. The nearby municipalities of Revere, Chelsea, and the town of Winthrop were then under the authority of the city of Boston. The Boston municipal government and the Suffolk County government were both the same entity. Additionally, I am very sorry for the misconception and confusion from my last article. I misunderstood the context of the Boston City Council being the Suffolk County Council myself and once again I apologize.

Regardless of my misconception that I just corrected above, I will focus this article on the neighborhoods of northern Suffolk County. Also, I will focus on Encore Boston Harbor which is just on the other side of the Boston, and Suffolk County, city and county line in the city and county of Everett, Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

The Third Downtown

The Back Bay Downtown and the Seaport District

Downtown, The Back Bay, and the Seaport District are the three largest business centers in the city of Boston, Massachusetts, which is the largest and capital city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Downtown was the Shawmut Peninsula. The city of Boston was born in 1630. It then grew and expanded. However, the original land of the city that is the heart of the city proper is the former Shawmut Peninsular.

The Back Bay was created from a landfill. The fasionable neighborhood was born. The neighborhood was then formed to create a unique section of the city that was based on the boulevards of Paris, France which is in Western Europe, and the European Union (E.U.).

Copley Plaza, which is a four-star hotel in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, was constructed in 1912. Also, Fenway Park became the home stadium of the Boston Red Sox Major League Base Ball team a few days after the Titanic sank.

The late 19th and early 20th centuries were a prestigious time in United States history. After the Civil War and Reconstruction, and during the Gilded Age, the young nation was an emerging world power. The factories were booming on the North East coast. Also, California was very affluent after the 1849 San Francisco Gold Rush. Moreover, the newly constructed railroads connected the nation, which was the width of the North American continent.  In the early 20th century, when the Titanic sailed the Atlantic Ocean, the City of Boston was the Athens of America. The Port of Boston had outgrown the Port of Salem to become one of the largest, and wealthiest, seaports on the U.S. eastern seaboard. Additionally, the mills in Lowell, Massachusetts was one of the largest industrial complexes globally, and Lynn’s nearby city was the first city to manufacture shoes in the nation.

However, the Great Depression hit the city, county, region, and commonwealth hard in the 1930s. After World War II ended first the factories, then the maritime industries left the city on top of a hill to sail out of the much larger port of New York and New Jersey. The region then experienced a decades-long period of economic stagnation.

However, the turning point occurred in 1957 when the local and state governments received grants from the Federal government in Washington to create the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The tides had changed.

In 1970 Governor Frank Sergeant admitted on live television the inner belt highway was a mistake. His administration would then shift away from that mistake and focus on public transportation. Fredrick Salvucci said that the state government took the first initiative to fix the Central Artery in Boston, which was casually known as The Big Dig.

However, since the completion of the Big Dig, and the creation of the Sea Port District, masses of development have been moving towards the suburbs of Boston. In this article, I will focus on Revere Beach, Suffolk Downs, and the former Wonderland Greyhound Park Harbor. Additionally, I will briefly discuss Constitution Beach in East Boston.

Suffolk Downs was a race track on the Ward 1, District 1 Boston (East Boston), and Ward 1 Revere (Beachmont) city line. The track itself is in Boston and only the stable are near Revere Beach. However, going forwards an innovation center will be built where the stables were located, which will be the epicenter of the suburban development located directly outside of the city proper.

Suffolk Downs was quite historic. Also, the Massachusetts Handicap (Mass Cap) was the track’s most significant annual event. Additionally, the Beatles performed at the track in 1966. The track then began hosting concerts again in 1999 for the first time in decades.

Modern Day Suffolk Downs

Historic Boston Incorporated (HBI) reported that on Mar. 28, 2017, the HYM Investment Group purchased Suffolk Downs.  Moreover, the property is 161-acres large. The HYM group is a Greater Boston area real estate development firm, as well.

The HBI reported that they will examine and analyze the life story of the famed East Boston racetrack. In addition, they will describe the buildings and pieces of architecture are the remnants of the golden age of Suffolk Downs. The structures date back to the peak years of horse racing in the United State, especially in Boston. The site then reported that the piece of prime real estate in the Hub neighborhood is the gateway into the city.

The number of Greater Bostonians and Bay Staters have spent times at the race track in the past. In the golden age of Boston and New England, fans watched the performance of large concerts. Moreover, the audience watched and bet on horses at the races and the storied Mass Cap. In 1937, Red Pollard won the Mass Cap, which occurred two years after the track opened for business. The Beatles performed at the track in the mid-1960s, as noted above.

At the close of the 19th century, which was during the Gilded Age, the major U.S. cities rapidly grew and expanded in the quickly emerging new and young republic. Simultaneously, horse racing was becoming extremely fashionable across the very large nation. Also, the urban-dwelling residents spent more moments of their time on recreational experiences. Moreover, there were racetracks in the Roxbury and Hyde Parks neighborhoods of the City consolidated County of Boston and Suffolk County.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Racing Commission was established in 1934. Sadly, illegal bookmakers corrupted the track in the 1970s and there were indictments in 1977.

Also in 1934, construction began on Suffolk Downs. In addition, the last remaining thoroughbred race track in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was the oldest that was built around the Bay State.

The track’s life span began in 1935, right after prohibition had ended. The HBI reported that there were four periods of the track’s construction or four building booms. Moreover, there is a different time period of architectural tastes in each of the four periods. Also, the once-storied U.S. pasty time changed vitally and significantly in each stage of construction.

In conclusion, the only physical structures that still exist from the 1930s golden age of Suffolk Downs are the grandstand, the clubhouse, and the Administration building. However, the ceiling of the Administration building has collapsed. The building now stands entirely and completely vacant in the parking lot, which is in front of the once glamorous, prestigious, and prominent clubhouse.

The former piece of property will be converted into a development that will be used as a shopping district. It will be very similar to Assembly Rowe in Somerville or the Marketplace in Lynnfield. The heart of the development will be the Beachmont Innovation Center in Revere. However, the key feature of the development will be the two train stations that will be the two front doors of the site. The two train stations will connect the development to Boston Logan by way of the Blue line of the Massachusetts Transportation system, or the T.

Growing up in the city of Revere I know the city, and the beach, very well. Nathan Hawthorne roamed the abandoned wharves of pre-civil war era Salem, Massachusetts. On the contrary, I remember having dinner at the 99’s at Wonderland Marketplace in the late 1990s. However, the beach was completely desolate, except for a few mostly vacant high rises (i.e., apartment buildings).

I heard the history of the city and beach many times. The city was a mostly farming community until the railroad reached the city in the 1830s. The Narrow Gage railroad then came to the beach in 1875. The golden age then began, which would last for the next century in one form or the other.

In 1888 the Great Ocean View Pier and Ballroom and the Point of Pines Hotel opened for business. The area became an exclusive beachfront resort town for the wealthy and upper-income Boston Brahmins. Additionally, the Boston Brahmins were the exclusive descendants of the Puritans that initially settled the city of Boston in 1630. Moreover, U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt made a speech at the Point of Pines Hotel in the early 20th century.

In 1896, Revere Beach was made the first public beach in the nation. It then became the Coney Island of New England. There were several amusement parks in the area at the turn of the 20th century. Wonderland Amusement Park was the forerunner and inspiration for Disney Land in Anaheim, California. The park was located directly behind the beach. 

In 1934, Para wager gambling was legalized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Then a year later Wonderland Amusement Park became Wonderland Greyhound Park in 1935 three decades after the amusement park shutdowns. Also, the park was a bicycle path for decades.

There were several ballrooms in the area during the 1930s, such as the Beach View, Ocean View, and the Frolics. Additionally, it was during the age of Big Band, Swing, and Jazz music. Moreover, it was the golden age of Revere.

Sadly, the high times in the city did not last. In the 1950s the funding to preserve the beach in the city was decreased. The grand amusements were then downgraded to concessions, bowling alleys, and ice-skating rinks. The ballrooms were converted to mediocre bar rooms. However, Wonderland would continue to go strong until the 1970s and 80s. Then it too would come down from its height as a greyhound park. Finally, the Great Blizzard of 1978 would dismantle whatever was left of the beach, the pier, and the boulevards. The state and city would attempt, and fail, to reconstruct the beach in the 1980s and 90s.

In May 2003, the entire beach was made a historic landmark. More so, there were talks of legalizing casino gambling in Massachusetts in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Sadly, some things were not meant to be. In 2010 it was announced that the sole gambling parlor in Massachusetts would be located at Plain Ridge Park. Also, the Boston area casino would be in Evert and called Encore Boston Harbor. Meaning, Suffolk Downs would not become a casino and Wonderland would not become a slot parlor.

Modern Day Revere Beach

In the modern-day, massive development is being built at Revere Beach. After the developments are built the city’s future will be very ambiguous. Also, the rest of the county, commonwealth, region, nation, and civilization. We as a nation and civilization have come to a very unpredictable time.

Wonderland remains a giant vacant lot. There was a debate over its future, whether it should become a commuter rail or a high-tech plant. However, where the once former greyhound park, clubhouse, and grandstand stood remains an abandoned piece of property.

Constitution Beach

Large Blue bridge

However, Constitution Beach in East Boston is one of the closest coordinates to watch jet airplanes take off from Logan. East Boston is one of the 23 official Boston City neighborhoods that lie directly next to Revere. I have stood in the spot myself. I can testify that it is a very breathtaking and terrifying experience at the same time. The Greater Revere area is directly linked to the airport on the blue line. Much like how Southie Is linked to the Seaport District by way of the Redline. Also, Assembly Row in Sommerville is linked to M.I.T. in Cambridge by way of the Green Line.

Regardless of whichever direction the future of Revere Beach, Suffolk Downs, or Wonderland gravitate towards, there is one thing that will always remain. The history of the area will always be there through the Revere Beach Boulevard, St Anthony’s of Padua Parish, and the beach itself. In conclusion, history is all we have in the end.



Revere History of Revere Beach; Revere Beach Social

Featured Image Courtesy of Can Pac Swire’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Featured Image Courtesy of Bill Damon’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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